LITTLE FALLS, NJ - A grandfather's birthday wish came true this holiday season, when his beloved grandson made a surprise visit to him.
Vincent Corsaro, who turned 80 on Dec. 9, wasn't sure when he'd see his grandson, Joseph Kocotos, who is an Airman First Class serving with the U.S. Air Force overseas, currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan at Kadena Air Base.
According to Michele Kocotos, Joseph's mother, the last time the she, her father Vincent, and her other two children, Carol and Tony, and Joe's friends saw him was on Oct. 26, 2016. It was assumed that he would be serving again during the holidays this year but when they found out that he would make it back to the U.S., the family thought of a wonderful way to surprise Vincent.
"We thought of a great way to really give my father a wonderful surprise birthday and holiday gift," Michele explained. "So Joe arrived on Dec. 21 and stayed at his father's house in Clifton until he arrived at the destination we chose to celebrate my father's 80th birthday."
Last Saturday, Dec.22, Joe walked in with a birthday cake in hand and a huge smile at The Kitch, located at 101 Newark Turnpike. According to Vincent, he was in shock and beside himself with joy.
"My father was so surprised that he just froze and could barely talk after seeing Joe," she said. "But he and everyone else were so overjoyed. I started to cry. It was very emotional.”
This past fall, Michele led a letter writing campaign to send to many of the troops stationed where Joe serves. With the assistance from the Little Falls School District, Passaic Valley High School, as well as local Girl Scouts, over 4,500 letters were written and collected to send to Joe and the other men and women of the military.
Michele had said she wanted to dig deeper and find the true meaning of the holiday season, even though it was only September when the letter writing campaign kicked off. So in lieu of monetary donations, she asked that individuals take time to write a card and expressed over social media that she only wanted letters. The request quickly snowballed and soon people on Facebook and Twitter across the country began writing letters and getting the word out.
Michele said that the surprise visit by Joe was the perfect birthday present for Vincent.
"If you look at the video, my father just literally froze," she added. "We knew it would be the perfect way for him to celebrate his birthday by seeing Joe. We knew it would be the best surprise, which was why we planned it!"
Michele also thanked the owners of The Kitch for assisting the surprise visit and helping to make it so special.
"I had taken my father there before and he loves it there. Everyone thought the food was so delicious and they couldn't stop talking about it. It was a great time."